“Over and over again, studies have shown that handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many cases of infection and illness, including foodborne illness,” says Michael Beach of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
But that’s only if you wash your hands properly. According to the CDC, here’s what that means;
WASH FOR 20 SECONDS: That means scrubbing under running water with soap long enough to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Rinse with clean water and then dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry..
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE TEMPERATURE: “The water doesn’t need to be hot.” says Ewen Todd, food-safety expert from Michigan State University. “Clearly, you want a temperature that’s comfortable, but whether the water is hot, lukewarm, or cold is less important than the length of time of scrubbing and the degree of friction created.” In fact, washing your hands with water that’s at 40 degrees F removes the same amount of germs as washing with water that’s at 120 degrees F.
— USE A NAIL BRUSH: Don’t forget to clean underneath your fingernails, where pathogens may be hiding. In studies at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, people who used nail brushes had the most success at cleaning hands with dirty fingernails. People with the longest nails had the least success.
DON”T — USE ANTIBACTERIAL HAND SOAP OR DISH DETERGENT:
Dawn. Joy, Ajax, and other brands of antibacterial dish detergent contain the chemical triclosan, which can kill bacteria. But it’s more a marketing tool than anything else, especially for use in the home.
The Food and Drug Administration’s bottom line: “The agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.”
In fact, the FDA is considering a ban on triclosan because it may affect the body’s regulation of hormones. (Exposure to high doses suppresses thyroid hormone levels and increases the impact of estrogen in laboratory rats.) Triclosan may also help make bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Source: Nutrition Action Health Letter November 2011